I have made Anadama bread before, but had to use blackstrap molasses rather than regular. It resulted in a creamy-cocoa colored loaf, uniformly so within and without. In fact when it was finished and I tasted it I thought: that’s the bread that is served in so many bread baskets here (I remembered it in particular from Henrietta’s Table in Harvard Square, which tries to source locally wherever possible, so serving a traditional New England bread would seem to fit within that ethos). Slightly sweet, soft, and mild.
This time I used regular molasses, but instead of polenta used white cornmeal. Why? I wanted to make this bread on Sunday–but it is a two day bread and we were away for the weekend visiting family for the 4th. The cornmeal mush is started the day before and then becomes the base of dough. So Saturday night I asked my husband’s uncle if I could have a cup of cornmeal. A box of white cornmeal was available, and in it went into a tupperware along with a cup of water. We then proceeded to leave without it, but a few minutes into our trip home (just past the dairy farm next to their place) I realized and we turned around. I ran back into the house, past two sets of aunts and uncles, parents in law, a sister in law, and cousins, grabbed my container of mush, and ran out calling “I forgot something.” (Considering my father in law asked how the morgue–i.e. the frozen chicken parts I keep for stock–was doing, no one was too surprised by any of this).
Into the mush you mix some of the flour, yeast, and more water and let proof for an hour. After a car trip mine needed only about 45 minutes:
Then you mix in the remainder of the ingredients (I need not clarify that this picture is after the molasses addition)! As was cautioned in the recipe, I needed to add more flour than called for–probably about half a cup.
The instructions say that in a stand mixer you will mix for 6-8 minutes to get “windowpane” (i.e. where the gluten is so developed it holds together as you stretch it so much it is nearly translucent). I mixed for far longer than that–maybe up to 14 minutes, and while I got closer, I finally gave up when I thought my stand mixer might overheat. I am not sure why on earth it too me so long (to not even get all the way there), as I would think the machines would be somewhat uniform–as this was written for home bakers, anyway. (I would understand if I had to knead by hand much longer than specified in the recipe as I’m sure my technique is not the best!). I didn’t realize how short I was on flour until the end, so perhaps that was part of the problem.
Anyway, my dough was pretty stretchy:
And set into an oiled bowl to let rise.
I followed (perhaps for the first time!) Peter Reinhart’s instructions on forming a loaf for a loaf pan: Fold and pinch, fold and pinch.
One more rise. I popped these in the refrigerator as I had to go grocery shopping (Reinhart says you can hold them there for up to two days, but mine had already risen considerably after just an hour in the fridge).
Baked, and sliced. I don’t have a water mister for the oven, so I “painted” the top with water to give some extra hydration to allow for extra rise in the oven. I did forget to slash the tops of the loaves, which might have allowed even more oven spring.
The bread is similar to how I remembered it the first time, but perhaps with an even milder flavor. (It’s funny as I think that most people associate molasses with a strong taste, but here it’s pretty mild). The bread was, I mentioned soft. So soft it almost seems to collapse when you cut it. I thought that the crust might toughen up a little as it cooled, but no. I don’t know if this is how it’s supposed to turn out or whether it’s my execution. On the other hand, if you are one who hates crusty bread, Anadama might just work well for you.